Twitter trends indicate that Americans exhibit a fair amount of ignorance when treating their illnesses.
Researchers from John Hopkins University studied 1.5 million health-related tweets over a year and a half. Among other things, they found that Americans are often treating their ailments with the wrong medications.
“We found that some people tweeted that they were taking antibiotics for the flu. But antibiotics don’t work on the flu, which is a virus, and this practice could contribute to the growing antibiotic resistance problems,” says Ph.D. student Michael J. Paul, who was part of the project.
If there’s this much confusion around a common illness like the flu, imagine what’s going on among cardiovascular patients. This certainly seems to validate the need for more educational content.
The Johns Hopkins researchers developed an algorithm to distinguish health-related tweets from non-health-related tweets. They were also able to glean enough information about tweeters’ locations to make observations about health trends across the country.
Using Twitter as a research tool seems to have a lot of possibilities. Researchers in Japan are creating a model to track when certain illnesses spread across countries based on who is tweeting common symptoms.
As Twitter use continues to grow, the possibilities are fascinating. I’m curious to know if any of you have used Twitter for research purposes. Let me hear from you.